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Health Board Services.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 6 April 2004

Tuesday, 6 April 2004

Questions (265)

Olwyn Enright


356 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position with regard to the education of unaccompanied minors living in hostel accommodation in Dún Laoghaire (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10754/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The provision of education to unaccompanied minors is a matter for the Minister for Education and Science and my Department has no role in this regard. Their care is the statutory responsibility of the health boards. In the Eastern Regional Health Authority Area, the East Coast Area Health Board, ECAHB, carries out this function for the three local area health boards.

The Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2003 which was commenced on 27th May, 2003, restricts the awarding of a rent supplement to asylum seekers. Guidance issued to health boards by the Department of Social and Family Affairs — SWA Circular No. 02/03 — stipulates that, where unaccompanied minor asylum seekers reach 18 years of age and are discharged from the care of a health board, they should be offered placement in adult direct provision accommodation.

Arising from this, when unaccompanied minors reach 18 years of age and are discharged by the health boards from their care they are provided with direct provision accommodation by the Reception and Integration Agency, RIA, which operates under the aegis of my Department. It should be noted, however, that a health board, in line with the provisions of social welfare legislation, may exercise discretion and retain persons in its accommodation who have attained 18 years of age where there is a determination that the individual is vulnerable or does not have a sufficient level of maturity to be accommodated in an adult facility.

To date the RIA has arranged placements for approximately 150 former unaccompanied minors in direct provision accommodation at the request of the ECAHB. In addition, the RIA has also arranged a small number of placements in such accommodation in the Cork city area at the request of the Southern Health Board. The RIA, in consultation with the dedicated social work team of the ECAHB working with unaccompanied minors, has made a major effort to ensure that former unaccompanied minors who are second level students are facilitated in continuing to attend school by effecting placements close to their previous health board accommodation.

During the February mid-term break a senior official from the RIA attended meetings with former unaccompanied minors who had been relocated to direct provision accommodation to discuss what further initiatives could be put in place to facilitate their continuance in education. The RIA also engaged in discussions with VECs, Southside Partnership, Dún Laoghaire Refugee Support Group, Northern Area Health Board, NAHB, and the ECAHB to identify ways to improve transitional supports for former unaccompanied minors attending school. Arising from these discussions study facilities are being enhanced in direct provision centres. It is also intended to improve tutor supports for leaving certificate students. In the context of transitional supports the NAHB will ensure that all leaving certificate students in direct provision receive appropriate SWA payments. In addition, every full-time student is being advised to avail of their entitlement to child benefit until they reach 19 years of age. Further referrals of former unaccompanied minors are due to take place over the coming months and I am informed by the RIA that they have agreed with the ECAHB to defer referrals of examination students until the State examinations have been completed in late June 2004.